Using Daily Reflective Writing to Track Connections With Students

Your students left for the bus, and your classroom is finally quiet. You straighten desks, scrape at the ground-up goldfish in the carpet, empty a remaining lunch box to head off the sour milk smell. That’s when you realize you’re not sure if you talked to the student who abandoned this lunch box. At all. Maybe you greeted them at the door, maybe you high-fived them as they left. Essentially, this student flew under your radar for the day. Did the same thing happen yesterday?
Life in an elementary school is chaotic and fast-paced. Some students are experts in capturing your attention. Others are experts in avoiding it, and some aren’t sure what’s going on; they want to belong but aren’t sure how. One simple process can help you notice your connections with everyone regularly.


Early in my career, I took a course that required journaling every day for five minutes or less. No word count, no page length. Just five minutes to create a simple sketch of the day. It only took a week for me to realize that there was power in this activity. I started making mental notes of things kids did or said that I wanted to capture. Like when I overheard two high school students reading an essay, and one said, “Dude. Have you heard of periods? They would make this easier to read.” Looking over the entries immediately illuminated patterns in what my students and I were doing.
There are hazards here, though. Like any meeting without an agenda, this practice can spiral into unhappy places. Without structure, the topics I wrote about became stuck, often in places I didn’t want to visit. It did me (and my students) no good to ruminate on the same gripes and discomforts every day: the lack of time to go to the bathroom, the annoying curriculum, the student who talked over me no matter what I did.
Despite this, I was committed. The possibilities seemed great; I wanted to make this practice work. So I developed a set of five prompts to focus my thinking. When I addressed each of these over a week or two, I found new ways to look at my teaching life. I used five guiding questions that helped me.

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